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Mary Lambert, ‘Heart on My Sleeve’
One chorus did wonders for Mary Lambert, the guest vocalist professing romantic interest in a girl on Macklemore’s “Same Love.” The Seattle slam poet was nominated for two Grammys, a performer at the actual ceremony, and now this: her first full-length on a major label. The album addresses her butt (which she loves), how she has bipolar disorder, and her inability to think straight (because “I’m so gay”), so “Heart on My Sleeve” – how apropos. And that’s only the first track. With a pop, Mika-like bounce and an all-around celebratory vibe, “Secrets” rummages through Lambert’s closet in the most bold and beautiful of ways – and then to let you know she doesn’t take herself too seriously, she giggles. It’s a telling gesture, since a lot of Lambert’s debut is, much like “Same Love,” designed to be lyrically heavy – themes of self-image and personal catharsis abound – but radio-friendly. She’s exposed on “Ribcage,” a hypnotic electro slow-burner with a rap cameo from K. Flay, and even if it reads like Live Journal poetry, you can’t help but be charmed by the openheartedness of “Monochromatic.” And then there’s “Jessie’s Girl.” Lamenting atop piano, the original song is ebbed to a crawl as she turns the buoyant ’80s classic into an aching ballad. Throughout the album, Lambert asks for your ears and gives you her heart. As long as she’s this sincere, it’s a fair trade. Grade: B
You+Me, ‘rose ave.’
You asked for it, and the lesbian gods listened. Having already created musical magic with the Indigo Girls on their George W. Bush slam, the lo-fi “Dear Mr. President,” Pink’s first folk release – a joint project with singer-songwriter Dallas Green (collectively known as You+Me) – is the result of the collaborative power of prayer. Not that she’s been slacking pop-wise, but Pink’s sinewy voice – a trove of raw emotions – was always better served by a less-frilly sound (to remind you: listen to “Family Portrait” and “Dear Diary” off of “Missundaztood”). Now, after two decades of telling guys to suck it and proving herself a bona fide circus act, we have “rose ave.,” a come-down that lands her right in your living room – a long-overdue outing marked with high expectations that meets very few of them. The problem: the songs. With the writing front and center, pretty harmonies and Pink unplugged can only do so much when sentiments about eternal love and hope – and all those things you feel walking through the greeting card aisle – are as broad as these. Even with the lilting beauty “You and Me” and “Open Door,” where the lyrics cut deeper, “rose ave.” is a personal project that doesn’t feel very personal. An album better in theory. Grade: C+
Betty Who, ‘Take Me When You Go’
Cue your happy dance. Betty Who is taking you to the floor and giving you all the good feels with her debut, a disc full of sweet-but-surface pop confections – think aural Cotton Candy – as charming as the same-sex Home Depot flash mob proposal she soundtracked. But “Somebody Loves You” isn’t Betty’s only infectiously cute moment. The synth-tastic ’80s-influenced “Glory Days” sounds like it should accompany the credits of a Molly Ringwald film, and the funky “Just Like Me” is a lotta fun. If only there were more to savor.
Annie Lennox, ‘Nostalgia’
Oh, she’ll put a spell on you, all right. Annie Lennox likely already has, but now she’s literal about it with “I Put a Spell On You,” one of 10 classic recreations off the icon’s second covers album (her first, “Medusa,” was released in 1995). The other selections from the Great American Songbook thrive because two words: Annie Lennox. Her voice is a godsend, and if you don’t get goose bumps hearing her give life to “Georgia on My Mind” and “God Bless the Child,” check your pulse.